Maybe it was the lecture from Planning Director Dean Grandin at the start of the meeting, or the design tweaks by Baker Barrios, but in either case a planned 19-story mixed-use tower sailed through Orlando's Appearance Review Committee with only minor comments.
Grandin told the ARB members they were offering too many contradictory opinions during courtesy reviews -- often on topics that were outside of their purview. Applicants were leaving with no clear direction on how to proceed.
"It gets back to this issue of personal preference over objective design review," Grandin said. "We're all looking for great architecture that will stand the test of time."
ARB Coordinator Douglas Metzger said he was happy with the preliminary designs, which had been updated to add more transparency and to relocate a stairwell. "The latest elevations are really good. There's not a lot more work that needs to be done."
Associate architect Cory Heck presented on behalf of the developer, Fort Myers-based Conor Capital, for the courtesy review. The project had been submitted as a Radisson Blu -- the first in Florida -- but now is not associated with a hotel flag.
Vishal Patel, Conor's chief development officer, told GrowthSpotter that whatever brand the company signs, it will be an "upper, upscale" hotel with full banquet facilities.
"The hotel ballrooms are on the second floor with no view obstruction and floor-to-ceiling windows," he said. "We want to be able to host large events. The restaurant and bar will be on the ground level. We're in talks with a few great chefs out of Miami. We want to bring something unique to Orlando."
The tower, located at the southeast corner of N. Magnolia and Palmetto avenues, just south of the Skyhouse Orlando apartments, also would feature 40 penthouse condos and shared rooftop amenities.
Patel said the corner units would be oversized and enjoy a 280-degree view of Lake Eola and the downtown skyline. "We feel the condo market very strong," he said. "We want to create a feeling of exclusivity. The condos will be very luxurious and high end."
Conor paid $2.8 million for the .58-acre property, having acquired the final parcel last November. "We were under contract for quite some time," Patel said. "The previous owner was a great friend to us."
The extended due-diligence period allowed Conor's development team, led by S&ME, to get a jump on the site planning and cost engineering.
"We're on track to submit for permits by mid-March, and we intend to break ground this year," Patel said.